Frank Langfitt

Frank Langfitt is NPR's international correspondent based in Shanghai. He covers China, Japan, and the Koreas for NPR News. His reports have included visits to China's infamous black jails –- secret detention centers — as well as his own travails taking China's driver's test, which he failed three times.

Before moving to China, Langfitt was NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi. He reported from Sudan and covered the civil war in Somalia, where learned to run fast in Kevlar and interviewed imprisoned Somali pirates, who insisted they were just misunderstood fishermen. During the Arab spring, Langfitt covered the uprising and crushing of the reform movement in Bahrain.

Prior to Africa, Langfitt was a labor correspondent based in Washington, D.C. He covered the 2008 financial crisis, the bankruptcy of General Motors and Chrysler and coal mine disasters in West Virginia.

Shanghai is Langfitt's second posting in China. Before coming to NPR, he spent five years as a correspondent in Beijing for The Baltimore Sun, covering a swath of Asia from East Timor to the Khyber Pass. During the opening days of the Afghan War, Langfitt reported from Pakistan and Kashmir.

In 2008, Langfitt covered the Beijing Olympics as a member of NPR's team, which won an Edward R. Murrow Award for sports reporting. Langfitt's print and visual journalism have also been honored by the Overseas Press Association and the White House News Photographers Association.

Langfitt spent his early years in journalism stringing for the Philadelphia Inquirer and living in Hazard, Kentucky, where he covered the state's Appalachian coalfields for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Before becoming a reporter, Langfitt drove a taxi in Philadelphia and dug latrines in Mexico. Langfitt is a graduate of Princeton and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard.

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11:27am

Fri March 14, 2014
World

Satellite Signals From Missing Plane Raise Questions

Conflicting information raises even more questions about the fate of the Malaysia Airlines jet that disappeared nearly a week ago with 239 people on board.

4:02pm

Mon March 10, 2014
News

Broadening Search for Malaysian Airliner Still Yields Only Theories

Originally published on Mon March 10, 2014 7:59 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

I'm Robert Siegel and we begin the hour with the mystery that has confounded the world for three days. What happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370? The plane disappeared Friday on its way from Malaysia to Beijing with 239 people aboard. Today, the search widened. Aircraft and ships from Malaysia, Vietnam, China and the United States are searching the South China Sea for any sign.

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12:55pm

Mon March 3, 2014
Parallels

Who's Behind The Mass Stabbing In China?

Originally published on Mon March 3, 2014 8:41 pm

People in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming lined up 15 deep on Sunday night to donate blood for the more than 140 people who were injured in the mass knife attack at the city's rail station.
Frank Langfitt NPR

The Chinese government has blamed the deadly stabbing attack in southwest China on Muslim separatists from the country's northwest, but it has yet to provide hard evidence for the claim.

Police said they have captured the final three suspects in a knife attack that killed 29 people and left more than a 140 injured in the city of Kunming on Saturday, according to the state-run New China News Service.

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5:17am

Mon February 17, 2014
Asia

Hong Kong To Destroy Ivory Stockpile, But Will It Curb Demand In China?

Originally published on Tue February 18, 2014 2:02 am

Elephant tusks are displayed in October after being seized by customs officials in Hong Kong. The 189 tusks, worth $1.5 million, were hidden in soybean sacks in a shipping container.
Kin Cheung AP

Lucy Skrine, 11, was walking through the bustling streets of Hong Kong a few months ago with fellow animal activists, holding signs in Chinese and English that read: "Say No to Ivory."

"There was one mainland Chinese that came around, and she said, 'Why can't we buy ivory?' " the sixth-grader recalled. Lucy explained that poachers had to kill the elephant to extract the tusks.

"When she learned this, she was like, 'What? I thought they fell out of the elephants,' " Lucy said.

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7:03am

Wed February 12, 2014
Food

Shanghai Warms Up To A New Cuisine: Chinese Food, American-Style

Originally published on Wed February 12, 2014 11:25 am

The majority of patrons at Shanghai's Fortune Cookie restaurant are foreigners, particularly Americans who crave the American-Chinese food they grew up with but can't find in China.
Frank Langfitt NPR

Imagine living in China and missing Chinese food. It happens. American expatriates who grew up with popular takeout dishes like General Tso's chicken can't find it in China because it essentially doesn't exist here.

Much of the Chinese food we grew up with isn't really Chinese. It's an American version of Chinese food. Chinese immigrants created it over time, adapting recipes with U.S. ingredients to appeal to American palates.

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3:28am

Wed February 5, 2014
Parallels

China Ends One Notorious Form Of Detention, But Keeps Others

Originally published on Wed February 5, 2014 9:01 pm

Falun Gong practitioners watch a video at the Masanjia re-education through labor camp in northeast China's Liaoning province on May 22, 2001.
John Leicester AP

After more than a half-century and the imprisonment of millions of people without trial, China officially moved to abolish its re-education through labor camp system at the end of last year.

When the Communist Party makes such sweeping policy statements, it pays to be a little skeptical. Last decade, the government abolished one detention system — and then secretly created another.

So, recently I headed out on a re-education through labor camp road trip to try to find out what the government is doing with its labor camps and what is happening to all those prisoners.

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11:38am

Fri January 31, 2014
Parallels

Air Quality Worries Dampen Chinese New Year Fireworks

Originally published on Fri January 31, 2014 1:56 pm

Fireworks explode in a Shanghai street on Thursday, the eve of the Lunar New Year. Setting off firecrackers is meant to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck. But many Chinese say they won't buy firecrackers this year, owing to growing worries about air quality.
Peter Parks AFP/Getty Images

People in China rang in the Year of the Horse overnight with the traditional barrage of fireworks, but Lunar New Year's celebrations in some cities were quieter than usual. After severe pollution choked much of eastern China last year, many people swore off the ancient tradition so they could protect their lungs and the environment.

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10:45am

Tue January 28, 2014
Parallels

In China's Hugely Indebted Cities, Some Big Bills Are Coming Due

Originally published on Tue January 28, 2014 6:55 pm

Wuhan, in central China, is in debt to the tune of a reported $33 billion — nearly twice the city's GDP. This 17-mile highway sat dormant for two years after banks cut off funding as Wuhan's debt ballooned. Work on the road resumed last year, but the construction company still hasn't been paid.
Frank Langfitt NPR

In recent years, rampant borrowing has driven a significant chunk of China's economic growth. The bill is now becoming clearer — and it's big. Late last year, China revealed that local governments owe nearly $3 trillion – more than the gross domestic product of France, the world's fifth-largest economy.

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12:42pm

Fri January 17, 2014
Asia

How I Flunked China's Driving Test ... Three Times

Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 7:39 pm

Drivers step out of their vehicles for a better view while stuck in traffic along Beijing's Second Ring Road on a "Car Free Day" on Sept. 21, 2010. For foreigners trying to drive in car-crazy China, the headaches begin with the written test.
Frederic J. Brown AFP/Getty Images

Recently, I decided to apply for a driver's license in China. Since I already have one from the U.S., the main thing I had to do was pass a computerized test on the rules of the road here. I figured it would be a breeze.

Driving and car ownership have taken off in China. Last year, the country added nearly 18 million drivers. There is so much demand for licenses that I had to wait a month for the first available testing date.

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12:49pm

Sun December 15, 2013
The Two-Way

In Executing His Uncle, Kim Jong Un Sends Tough Message

Originally published on Sun December 22, 2013 12:55 pm

The sun rises over the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge, which spans the Yalu River and leads into North Korea (background), at the Chinese border town of Dandong.
Mark Ralston AFP/Getty Images

The wife of a top North Korean official who was executed last week appears to have survived the latest political purge in Pyongyang.

Kim Kyong Hui, who is also the aunt of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was named to an official funeral committee on Saturday. Analysts took it as a sign that she still retains power in the inner circle of North Korean leadership.

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4:51pm

Mon December 9, 2013
Asia

For Working-Class Chinese, 'Picture Day' Is A Rare Treat

Originally published on Tue December 10, 2013 10:45 am

Zheng Jinrong poses with a portrait of herself and her grandson in a migrant village in Shanghai. She received the photographs as part of a global event to provide high-quality portraits for people who otherwise can't afford them.
Frank Langfitt NPR

A holiday gift of sorts came early in more than 20 countries over the weekend, as volunteer photographers shot free, studio-quality portraits of more than 16,000 people who otherwise couldn't have afforded them.

A working-class neighborhood of Shanghai was among the more than 130 sites where the photo shoots took place, part of a global project inspired by Help-Portrait, a U.S.-based nonprofit.

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4:02pm

Thu November 28, 2013
Asia

China's Latest Territorial Moves Renew Fears In Philippines

Originally published on Thu November 28, 2013 9:24 pm

U.S. and Philippine navy personnel patrol the seas off a naval base west of Manila in June as part of joint exercises.
Ted Aljibe AFP/Getty Images

China is flexing its muscles these days. Over the weekend, it declared a sprawling air defense identification zone that covers disputed islands controlled by Japan. And it has sent its lone aircraft carrier for first-time trials in the South China Sea, where Beijing has territorial feuds with other neighbors, including Vietnam, Brunei and the Philippines.

None of this was making China any friends in Manila, where the Chinese government is particularly unpopular these days.

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8:48am

Mon November 25, 2013
Parallels

After The Storm: Commerce Returns To Damaged Philippines City

Originally published on Mon November 25, 2013 1:11 pm

In the past week, this street market in Tacloban has grown exponentially as people try to earn money to rebuild their lives.
Frank Langfitt/ NPR

Commerce has returned to the storm-savaged streets of Tacloban in the past week. People sell bananas along the roads, and a bustling market has sprung up across several blocks downtown.

Jimbo Tampol, who works for a local Coca-Cola distributor, drives across Tacloban selling ice-cold sodas from coolers. In a city where there is no electricity and little refrigeration, a cold soda is a big deal, a symbol of normalcy.

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10:28am

Wed November 6, 2013
Parallels

In Violent Hospitals, China's Doctors Can Become Patients

Originally published on Wed November 6, 2013 8:45 pm

People wait in line at a counter for medical services at the Guanganmen Chinese medicine hospital in Beijing.
David Gray Reuters /Landov

Several hundred doctors and nurses jammed the courtyard of the No. 1 People's Hospital in Wenling, a city with a population of about 1 million in Zhejiang province, a four-hour train ride south of Shanghai.

They wore surgical masks to hide their identities from the government and waved white signs that read, "Zero tolerance for violence."

"Doctors and nurses must be safe to take care of people's health!" video shows them chanting.

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11:28am

Wed October 30, 2013
Parallels

Someone In Central China Really Stinks At Photoshop

Originally published on Wed October 30, 2013 1:32 pm

In a photo originally posted to a county government website, local officials purportedly visit a 100-year-old woman in Anhui province. They sure are tall, aren't they? And what happened to the legs of the guy on the right?
Ningguo Civil Affairs Department via Chinanews.com

Local Chinese government propagandists have outdone themselves in what seems to be the increasingly competitive category of bad Photoshop.

This week's entry hails from Ningguo County in central China's Anhui province. The workmanship is so bad, it seems almost, well, effortless.

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